Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Today's Mystery Author Guest: Joanna Campbell Slan
As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Joanna Campbell Slan is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.
The photo above is the cover for her August 7th release, Death of a Schoolgirl, which begins her new series, the Jane Eyre Chronicles. The year is 1820, and Jane Eyre is married to her beloved Edward Rochester, but their domestic tranquility is threatened when a note arrives from Adele, Jane’s former pupil. She is miserable at the girls’ school in London, and worse yet, someone wants to kill her! Rushing to Adele’s aid, Jane is mistaken for an errant German teacher. Jane maintains the false identity long enough to track down a killer who preys on schoolgirls.
As a fan of Jane Eyre, this sounds like a great read to me!
Below are Joanna's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for her, and if you have a question of your own for her, ask it!
1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?
I grew up in a chaotic household because both of my parents were alcoholics. From the moment I learned to read, I thought books were my best friends. Certainly, they offered an easy escape. From there it was a short hop to wanting to write my own stories. I think I was about ten when I stapled together sheets of paper and called them, “My book.”
2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I use a version of the personal profile system developed by William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman and the lie detector. It divides people into four broad categories, determined by how they interact with others and how they see the world. That helps me keep each character distinct.
3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
A bit of both. I might start a book by the seat of my pants, and then stop to work on an outline. Or I might outline a book, and then let my intuition guide me.
4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a murder mystery and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?
I think all fiction is about character. Ask anyone to relate the sequence of events in Gone with the Wind, and you’ll probably risk a confused jumble. But ask a person to tell you about Rhett or Scarlett, and they can do so in great detail. Character always drives plot. Two people in the same situation won’t respond the same way. That’s how character is revealed.
5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
In the beginning, it was hard to find a big enough block of time to write fiction. Once my son got his driver’s license, I was on my way. Of course, when you start, you don’t know what you’re doing. Very few of us admit that, but it’s true. It takes a while to have a pretty good sense of how to build a book.
As for motivation, I love what I do. I can’t wait to get started writing every day! If I miss a day, I feel lost.
6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I’m up at six. I work for a couple of hours answering emails, doing social media posts, and so on. I go to Jazzercise. After I eat lunch, I sit down and start writing again, usually until six or so. If I can, after dinner I squeeze in a few hours.
I would guess I put in 60 hours a week on my writing.
7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Get a journalism degree. It will provide you with the basics of good writing. You’ll learn to appreciate an editor, and you will never worry about writer’s block because a pro writes whether he/she feels like it or not!
8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet. Something as simple as your favorite TV show or food will do.
My husband teases me because I love Anderson Cooper. I’m a junkie. In fact, I relax by watching CNN at night.
9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’ve turned in Death of a Dowager, the second book in The Jane Eyre Chronicles. I’ve finished Book #4 in the Southern Beauty Shop series. It’ll be called Wave Goodbye and it’s written under the pseudonym “Lila Dare.” I’m halfway through Book #6 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, and I try to produce a short story every month that features Kiki and Company. I have a lot of other ideas for books that I hope to tackle when I finish Kiki #6.
10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?
I love connecting with my readers on Facebook. I’m available to Skype with book clubs, and I’ll happily provide them with questions and bookmarks. Please visit my website.
Thanks, Joanna! Now, who has a comment or question for her?